Friday, October 14, 2011

What happened to the desktop

Is it just me or have the developers of operating systems abandoned the desktop model? Windows 8 looks like its going to run on a smart phone, Apple seems to be moving towards a tablet centric OS, and even Ubuntu which is easily the most popular and user friendly Linux distribution appears to have made this leap with the new unity interface. Its true that in the nearly thirty years since the PC made its debut there has been little innovation in terms of UI. Part of this has been limited by technology, touch screens have been prohibitively expensive up till very recently, and there was also a lot of inertia attached to the current desktop metaphor.

But what I am seeing in the next generation of desktop operating systems is an almost forceful move into the tablet interface. This may not be an all together bad thing, it can be more intuitive, which makes for a better experience for an average user. But what about every one who is not an average user? I like the desktop, I'm comfortable there and honestly still prefer the command line for a lot of tasks. I am aware that this places me in the minority. I am a computer nerd after all. But I also have had the opportunity over the last few years to speak to thousands of computer users who felt their world was shattered when we shifted from Windows XP to Windows Vista. Their complaints were almost all related to the change in interface (and that was almost all superficial). I predict that we will see a similar if not stronger push back from users of the new generation of Operating systems which at this point appear to be radically different than what the average user is used too. People will adapt, every one from the early adopters to the last ones to the party (I still have customers who think Microsoft should have stopped at windows 95).

Change can be a good thing, but change for the sake of change is as often as its not a bad thing. I can understand OS developers desire to make their interface ubiquitous across any platform, and I know that in the end the user will benefit. But I hope its not my job to Shepperd these users into this next generation of interface.


  1. I'm whole heartedly with you on this matter in a lot of respects. My biggest complaint going forward is how much of a antiquated clunky appearance the new user interface experience is taking. The large tile interface makes me think of early levels of windows albeit with more color but it feels really rather blocky. I understand the reasoning behind it really I do, it's for those said same tablets and mobile devices as they require a simpler interface design, but really dumbing down my desktop appearance really seems a step backwards.

  2. @Dakkender, I know what you are saying there, some of these new styling are almost a throw back to the first real desktop Operating Systems. If Developers want to go that route thats fine but I feel like they need to understand that there are a lot of power users out there who get a lot done with the current generation. I don't need pretty pictures, I need a powerful OS that will allow me to get stuff done.